Severed Heads: Dead Eyes Opened

Severed Heads' "Dead Eyes Opened" was an accidental critical success back in 1983. Relive this modest hit's moment in the sun on a vinyl reissue.

Severed Heads

Dead Eyes Opened

Label: Dark Entries
US Release Date: 2014-07-12
UK Release Date: 2014-07-12
Label website
Artist website

The single for Severed Heads' surprise critical smash song "Dead Eyes Opened" is one of those nuggets that probably sounded really crazy and new at the time it was released but not so much these days. This isn't the fault of the Australia-based synthpop act who included the song on a demo tape at the last minute just to fill up a large amount of blank space (remember cassettes?). So they didn't even have any plans for this 6:32 dance track outside of making the demo tape look good. And wouldn't you know it, after Gary Bradbury and Simon Knuckey sent out the tape in 1983, "Dead Eyes Opened" was the song that actually caught on with independent radio. There are many catchy elements going for it, like the hypnotic keyboard motif that moves in a graceful cycle and a steady beat that doesn't ask too much of you. On the other hand, it has a sample from a British news anchor discussing a grisly murder and a metallic blast of noise. In a sense, this song didn't really have a melody. But that didn't stop distributors from asking the band to make a single out of it. And that's what we have here, "Dead Eyes Opened" with two b-sides, "Bullet" and "Mount", now being re-released by the Dark Entries label.

Like I said, the thrill of the new from 1983 doesn't always translate the same way to modern times. Lots of this kind of avant-electro-whatever has come and gone since then. But if you can block out current music and technology long enough to focus on these 11 minutes of music, the Dead Eyes Opened single can still sound startling. All you have to do is ignore the fact that certain types of popular songs need a core to their existence and view these three tracks as collages, crawling from a dank synthesized underbelly that people were just becoming cognizant of in the late '70s and early '80s.

The other side of the 10" unsurprisingly doesn't try to topple the main attraction. For one thing, "Bullet" and "Mount" aren't very long. Severed Heads don't allow themselves much time to get too weird on these two tracks. Still, there is a drop of weird in their formula that they have no way of masking, like the sped-up vocal sample that repeats over and over at the start of "Bullet". The keyboard "riff" for "Mount" could be taken as an industrial template, but Bradbury and Knuckey dress up the rest of the mix as if they were chasing a far more ambient idea. It's an odd juxtaposition, one that you might miss if you had it on as background. And just like that, the song fades out after just two minutes and sixteen seconds.

Dead Eyes Opened is an odd little semicolon from the past. Putting the spotlight on a reissue can feel like spitting in the wind. But on the other hand, I feel that labels like Dark Entries are spoiling us by introducing a new generation to music that, even in the right time and place just for it, slipped away in the night with only a handful of new fans. And it's that thought that teaches me not to take things like the Dead Eyes Opened single for granted.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.